Big 2nd half helps No. 4 Baylor hold off No. 23 Miami 88-81
WINTER PARK, Fla. (AP) — Baylor has grown accustomed to winning games by large margins.
On Saturday night, the Lady Bears felt fortunate to grab a close victory.
Nina Davis scored 25 points, Alexis Jones added 24 and No. 4 Baylor held on for an 88-81 win over No. 24 Miami.
Baylor (12-0) led by just a point at the break, and then created some breathing room with an 8-2 run at the start of the third quarter.
After trailing for most of the second half, the Hurricanes, who went 11 for 22 from 3-point range, closed to 84-79 with less than a minute to play. But the Lady Bears finished off the win at the free-throw line.
Miami held Baylor to 32 percent shooting (7 for 22) in the first half, but it was the Hurricanes’ shooting that Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey remembered.
“Defensive effort? You should be talking about those 3s,” she said. “If that team plays like that all year they ought to be vying for an ACC championship. ... They just made shots right in our face.”
The Lady Bears had difficulty stopping Miami’s dribble penetration, and Mulkey said “when we did help we’d get there a step too late and they’d kick it out for a 3.”
“I just really respect what they did tonight and the job (Miami coach) Katie (Meier) is doing there,” she said.
Miami also forced the Lady Bears to play a lot faster than they wanted, bottling up Niya Johnson. The point guard entered the night leading the nation with 10.7 assists per game. She finished with just four against the Hurricanes, to go along with five turnovers.
Baylor got most of its scoring in the second half via second-chance opportunities. Several key baskets came from junior Kristina Higgins, who finished with 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
“We definitely took Miami’s best shot,” Davis said. “They came out on fire and we expected that. We’re playing in their neck of the woods. ... I’m just proud of my team and to fight all the 3s and everything they’d thrown at us, we just kept going.”
Adrienne Motley led Miami with 24 points. Jessica Thomas added 18.
Miami (10-1) was the crisper team on offense in the first half, building an early seven-point lead.
Baylor recovered in the final two quarters, shooting 49 percent for the game and holding a 47-28 rebounding advantage that led to 23 second-chance points.
Baylor had a size edge in the post thanks to 6-foot-4 Beatrice Mompremier and the 6-5 Higgins.
Miami used its quickness on defense to negate that advantage early on, utilizing a three-quarter court press that forced the Lady Bears into eight turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. They finished with 17.
The Hurricanes also got shots to fall, going 7 for 12 from 3-point range in the first half.
The Lady Bears struggled at times to get the ball inside off their half-court sets. But Davis was steady with 15 first-half points.
Baylor: It was the fourth ranked opponent Baylor has faced this season.
Miami: The Hurricanes’ reserves outscored their counterparts 20-12. ... Miami and Baylor entered the night as two of just 13 remaining undefeated teams in Division I.
Saturday was the opener of the five-game Florida Sunshine Classic event, hosted at Rollins College’s Warden Arena. Indiana, James Madison, and West Virginia also are participating in the three-day event that concludes Monday. Each team is playing two games.
The road trip to Florida was a return home for three Lady Bears. Johnson is from Gainesville. Mompremier is from Miami, and redshirt junior Alexis Prince is from nearby Orlando.
Baylor plays James Madison on Monday.
Miami plays Indiana on Sunday.